pun·​ish | \ ˈpə-nish How to pronounce punish (audio) \
punished; punishing; punishes

Definition of punish

transitive verb

1a : to impose a penalty on for a fault, offense, or violation
b : to inflict a penalty for the commission of (an offense) in retribution or retaliation
2a : to deal with roughly or harshly
b : to inflict injury on : hurt

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Other Words from punish

punishability \ ˌpə-​nish-​ə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce punishability (audio) \ noun
punishable \ ˈpə-​nish-​ə-​bəl How to pronounce punishable (audio) \ adjective
punisher noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for punish



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Choose the Right Synonym for punish

punish, chastise, castigate, chasten, discipline, correct mean to inflict a penalty on in requital for wrongdoing. punish implies subjecting to a penalty for wrongdoing. punished for stealing chastise may apply to either the infliction of corporal punishment or to verbal censure or denunciation. chastised his son for neglecting his studies castigate usually implies a severe, typically public censure. an editorial castigating the entire city council chasten suggests any affliction or trial that leaves one humbled or subdued. chastened by a landslide election defeat discipline implies a punishing or chastening in order to bring under control. parents must discipline their children correct implies punishing aimed at reforming an offender. the function of prison is to correct the wrongdoer

Examples of punish in a Sentence

I think that murderers should be punished by life imprisonment. She was punished for lying. His parents punished him by taking away his allowance. How should I punish my child's misbehavior? State law punishes fraud with fines.
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Recent Examples on the Web Feinstein will be the captain of Democrats’ strategy in the Senate to delay, stop or punish Republicans’ push to confirm a Trump pick. Tal Kopan, SFChronicle.com, "Kamala Harris, Dianne Feinstein key players in fight over Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat," 19 Sep. 2020 China demanded that India restrain its troops and punish the soldiers who fired their weapons. Joanna Slater, Washington Post, "Shots fired on the India-China border for the first time in decades as tensions flare," 8 Sep. 2020 The inclination to condemn and punish those who are in any way less pious in their observation of guidelines and best practices is all too common these days. Isaac Schorr, National Review, "Fear and Loathing in a Coronavirus Pandemic," 25 Aug. 2020 Sentences of community service – whether construction, digging drainage or other manual labor – serve to both punish and socially reintegrate offenders. Lynn Marie Stephen, The Conversation, "Latin American women are disappearing and dying under lockdown," 24 Aug. 2020 Much of the story involves Virgil’s determination to find and punish drug dealers who have targeted his nephew and other young people. Chuck Haga, Star Tribune, "Review: 'Winter Counts,' by David Heska Wanbli Weiden," 21 Aug. 2020 The messaging accompanies new outbreaks at schools around the country as students return to campus, leading several this week to halt on-campus instruction and punish some rule breakers. Douglas Belkin, WSJ, "Colleges Worried About Covid-19 Cases Tell Students to Stop Partying," 21 Aug. 2020 McAdams also called for strengthening inspectors general to look at pandemic grants to seek out and punish any waste, fraud and abuse. Lee Davidson, The Salt Lake Tribune, "On COVID aid, Democrat Ben McAdams praises Mitt Romney — and declines to criticize Trump," 10 Aug. 2020 President Trump has vowed to protect historical statues and punish vandals with jail time. Fox News, "Melania Trump statue in Slovenia set on fire on Fourth of July; suspects sought," 10 July 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'punish.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of punish

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for punish

Middle English punisshen, from Anglo-French puniss-, stem of punir, from Latin punire, from poena penalty — more at pain entry 1

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Time Traveler for punish

Time Traveler

The first known use of punish was in the 14th century

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Statistics for punish

Last Updated

23 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Punish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/punish. Accessed 1 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for punish


How to pronounce punish (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of punish

: to make (someone) suffer for a crime or for bad behavior
: to make someone suffer for (a crime or bad behavior)
: to treat (someone or something) severely or roughly


pun·​ish | \ ˈpə-nish How to pronounce punish (audio) \
punished; punishing

Kids Definition of punish

1 : to make suffer for a fault or crime The child was punished for lying.
2 : to make someone suffer for (as a crime) The law punishes theft.

Choose the Right Synonym for punish

punish and discipline mean to put a penalty on someone for doing wrong. punish means giving some kind of pain or suffering to the wrongdoer often rather than trying to reform the person. The criminals were punished with life imprisonment. discipline is used of punishing the wrongdoer but usually includes an effort to bring the person under control. Parents must discipline their children.

pun·​ish | \ ˈpə-nish How to pronounce punish (audio) \

Legal Definition of punish

1 : to impose a penalty on for a fault, offense, or violation
2 : to inflict a penalty for the commission of (an offense) in retribution or retaliation or as a deterrent

intransitive verb

: to inflict punishment

Other Words from punish

punishability \ ˌpə-​ni-​shə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce punishability (audio) \ noun
punishable \ ˈpə-​ni-​shə-​bəl How to pronounce punishable (audio) \ adjective
punisher noun

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